A tight association between Chlamydomonas alpha-tubulin acetyltransferase (TAT) and flagellar axonemes, and the cytoplasmic localization of both tubulin deacetylase (TDA) and an inhibitor of tubulin acetylation have been demonstrated by the use of calf brain tubulin as substrate for these enzymes. A major axonemal TAT of 130 kD has been solubilized by high salt treatment, purified, and characterized. Using the Chlamydomonas TAT with brain tubulin as substrate, we have studied the effects of acetylation on the assembly and disassembly of microtubules in vitro. We also determined the relative rates of acetylation of tubulin dimers and polymers. The acetylation does not significantly affect the temperature-dependent polymerization or depolymerization of tubulin in vitro. Furthermore, polymerization of tubulin is not a prerequisite for the acetylation, although the polymer is a better substrate for TAT than the dimer. The acetylation is sensitive to calcium ions which completely inhibit the acetylation of both dimers and polymers of tubulin. Acetylation of the dimer is not inhibited by colchicine; the effect of colchicine on acetylation of the polymer can be explained by its depolymerizing effect on the polymer.

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